Feast Week Mission Briefing: Texas in the CBE Hall Of Fame ClassicPosted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2013
With Feast Week kicking into high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: The Longhorns haven’t garnered many headlines this season, but as we mentioned in Friday’s M5, that’s probably a good thing, given that their schedule has consisted of four games against teams outside Ken Pomeroy’s top 100. After a couple of close calls against Mercer and South Alabama, Rick Barnes‘ team finally got the lead out last Monday, thrashing Houston Baptist in Austin. It may still be early, but things could be looking up, as the Texas offense is already more promising than it was at this time a year ago. Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert have made great strides, and a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Javan Felix has made scoring easier to come by. The Longhorns are still trying to get Cameron Ridley out of neutral, free throw shooting has been awful, and the team’s shot selection has been questionable at times, so there’s still a lot of improvement to be made. Defensively, kinks are still being ironed out, especially on the perimeter. Texas has allowed four nondescript opponents to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, the result of fielding a young team and showing a zone defense that hasn’t done a good job of closing out on shooters.
First Round Preview: Texas’ defensive three-point percentage will be an area of concern right off the bat as the Longhorns draw sweet-shooting BYU tonight in Kansas City. Even though the Cougars hit only 4-of-14 attempts from outside the arc against Iowa State, the Longhorns need to keep a close eye on Matt Carlino, Tyler Haws and Anson Winer, each of whom can do damage from the perimeter in a hurry. Inside, the match-up should work slightly more in Texas’ favor, especially if Cougars forward Erik Mika has trouble adjusting to the eye injury he suffered at the hands of DeAndre Kane. Any time would be a great time for the Longhorns to get Ridley going, but with such a distinct size advantage down low, this is an especially good opportunity for him. Still, none of it will matter if Texas doesn’t keep up with BYU’s quick-strike offense, as the Cougars’ possessions last an average of just 12.6 seconds.
Potential Later-Round Match-up: With games against Michigan State and North Carolina already on Texas’ schedule, the Longhorns aren’t exactly hurting for marquee opportunities, but a potential meeting with Wichita State on Tuesday night would give Barnes’ team another chance to take down an NCAA-level squad. The Shockers come to Kansas City with an unblemished record, but they’ve yet to show the kind of dominance on the boards that played such a big role in their Final Four run last season. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have cleaned up the glass in much better fashion on both ends, but that’s where the advantages end for Texas. The margin for error on the Longhorns’ stellar three-point shooting would be razor-thin, and in front of a Shocker-heavy crowd, it’s hard to see Texas winning two games this week. If the Longhorns come up short in Monday’s opener against BYU, they’ll likely draw DePaul, a team that, shall we say, isn’t quite as appealing from the perspective of building a tournament resume.
Final Outlook: The Longhorns are off to a decent start this year, nothing more, nothing less — and BYU and Wichita State are clearly superior teams. Texas will need big performances throughout their offense to get past the Cougars’ potent offense, and even if they manage to beat that team, it would be a surprise if they had enough in the tank to stay with Wichita State on the second night. Two losses at the CBE Classic wouldn’t crater the season, but it may leave the Longhorns wondering what might have been if they come up just a bit short on Selection Sunday.